President Bush Signs Executive Order for Stem Cell Research Alternatives

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 20, 2007   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

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by Steven Ertelt Editor
June 20
, 2007

Washington, DC ( — President Bush vetoed a bill Wednesday forcing taxpayers to fund embryonic stem cell research but he also signed an executive order directing the federal government to help look into ways to obtain embryonic stem cells without destroying human life.

The veto is the third of his presidency and the second on a bill making the public fund this controversial research.

The president said he supports efforts by scientists examining the potential benefits of pluripotent stem cell research and obtaining quality stem cells without killing days-old unborn children.

"By expanding support for non-destructive research methods, this Executive Order will make it more likely that these exciting advances continue to unfold," the president said.

"Destroying human life in the hopes of saving human life is not ethical, and it is not the only option before us. Technical innovation in this difficult area is opening up new possibilities for progress without conflict or ethical controversy," Bush explained.

The executive order directs the Department of Health and Human Services and the National Institutes of Health to ensure that any human pluripotent stem cell lines produced in ways that do not create, destroy, or harm human embryos will be eligible for federal funding.

It expands the NIH’s Embryonic Stem Cell registry to include all types of ethically produced human pluripotent stem cells.

The registry already tracks the embryonic stem cell lines that are available for federal funding, but it adds known adult and pluripotent lines to the database and renames it the “Pluripotent Stem Cell Registry.”

Nikolas Nikas, the president and general counsel of the Bioethics Defense Fund, told the executive order is a good idea.

"President Bush’s veto and executive order strike the perfect balance of promoting cures while respecting the basic principle that human life should be served by science, not exploited by it," he said.

"The ‘Pluripotent Stem Cell Registry’ will promote federal funding of new and exciting science that creates pluripotent or ’embryonic-like’ stem cells without the need to create and destroy human embryos," he added.

This month, several new studies showed the potential of reprogramming adult cells, such as skin cells, to make them function like embryonic stem cells.

In January 2007, scientists discovered that cells extracted from amniotic fluid and placentas could also provide stem cells that seem to do what embryonic stem cells can – without creating or destroying human embryos.

"This disabuses us of this notion that there is this fundamental conflict between science and ethics," Karl Zinsmeister, Bush’s top domestic policy adviser, said of the new research.

The president has also invited scientists to work with the NIH to find more alternatives.